Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fine Dining in Sapperton

Boo and I actually don't get out to dine with friends nearly as much as I might like to. His schedule can get kind of crazy with shift work. But, we finally worked out a night to visit Trixi at her home in Sapperton. We nearly never made it though because Boo was called in to work an overtime shift that night. Luckily, he managed to put them off until 11.30, so we got in a bit of an evening with Trixi and friend Belle - or if you catch them together, Trixi-Belle.

Managed to fit in another two bottles for The List as well.

24. 2006 Sterling Vintner's Collection Chardonnay (Central Coast - California)

Sterling is a venerable winery in Napa but this is more of an entry level wine and the grapes are sourced from more coastal vineyards. Though not nearly as complex as the chardonnays that were poured the other night at the AWAS tasting, this wine is a simple sipper and, for a non-chardonnay drinker, it wasn't bad at all. It was clearly not an oak-bomb that I often associate with California chardy's.

25. 2007 Errazuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley - Chile)

This is the first opening of a bottle from this year's Playhouse Festival purchases. I initially tried this wine a couple of years ago at the Playhouse but I don't think you can buy it locally. At least I've never seen it on the shelves. At the time, I thought the whole use of wild yeast in the fermentation process was quite novel. Turns out, Errazuriz is more on the cutting edge of the marketing process than in vinification circles. With this wine, the winery promotes fermenting with native yeasts, found naturally on the grape skins, as they provide more distinctive and complex aromas and flavours. With the whole trend towards organic and biodynamic winemaking, natural yeasts also play on a more natural and less interventionist process in the winery. One point Errazuriz.

The use of wild, natural yeasts is far more common than I would have expected though. It's just that most winemakers aren't advertising the types of yeast they use right on the bottle - wild, natural, crazy or not. Comparing notes, the possibility of more complex wines - that better show the terroir of the vineyard - may be a reality of native yeasts; however, the most common argument for commercial yeasts seems to be that they allow more control of the fermentation process and help prevent the risk of a failed fermentation. Risk is not a term that is positively received in most wineries. Proponents from both sides of the yeast debate will generally agree that the work in the vineyard is still going to play a much larger role in determining the end result of a wine than yeast ever will though.

How the wild ferment affected this pinot is beyond me, but I do know that the wine impressed me enough that it was one of only a dozen that I actually bought at the Festival. Considering that it took no effort on our parts to finish two bottles of wine during our short time with Trixi-Belle, it might have been a good thing that we had to leave early so that Boo could go to work.

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